Danny De Gracia: Let's All Work To Make A Difference In 2023 - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Happy New Year, friends, we’ve made it to 2023, which is no small accomplishment considering the challenges of the past year.

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We have heard it said before by Winston Churchill that history is written by the victors, but in this era, history is written by the survivors, and Hawaii has survived against all odds.

As we start the fresh year, the tradition of making optimistic New Year’s resolutions has become a tongue-in-cheek exercise in declaring the things we know we’ll never do. If one is not cautious, indifference, followed by cynicism can take over, where we never try to change anything because we assume nothing can ever change.

But let me ask you all an honest question. What if all the bad things we’ve experienced, all the hardships we’ve endured, and all the disappointments we’ve had to deal with here in Hawaii have given us precisely the experience and discipline we need to reform our communities and our government in 2023?

There is no reason to believe we can’t make some positive progress. We have many new elected officials and a significant turnover in both the Legislature and the county governments. Newly elected Gov. Josh Green is also still in the process of assembling an administration and finding his policy footing.

Maybe all it takes to at least start reform and rehabilitating Hawaii is for all of us to show some initiative, take a chance at working with people who are different than us, and be honest about how we feel? Here’s some strategies I think we should start with.

If You Challenge It, It Will Change

Here in Hawaii, people tolerate bad things without saying or doing anything about it for far too long. Complacency, defeatism and hopelessness are the three pillars that allow a negative status quo to stand.

Few want to be the first to speak up, even fewer want to be the first to take action, and we will ideally jump in if someone else does – but what happens if no one ever steps up?

Answer: You get Hawaii, as it is right now.

People hate being exiled to the “bad doggy” corner for standing up, but we’ve gotten to the point where sitting down has become our way of life.

If our goal is to fix Hawaii, we can’t have a “what happened was meant to be and what will happen, will happen, the Universe will fix it” mindset. When we think that way, we allow injustice to thrive in government and inequality to widen in our communities.

If we want more integrity and better stewardship, we also can’t have a “didn’t cause it; can’t control it; can’t cure it” mindset. There are people who are corrupt, incompetent, and in some cases, overtly malicious in our government who are there simply because they started out wrong, no corrections were made, and now they’re a problem no one can get rid of (or someone who is trusted who shouldn’t be trusted at all).

Sunrise on a hot day over Sandy Beach on September 16, 2014
A new year is dawning for Hawaii. Let’s stay on top of our civic affairs and make some real progress. PF Bentley/Civil Beat/2014

We need to have an attitude of “if you challenge it, it will change.” This means that the public will get what it wants when the public decides to say what it wants. The more problems you tolerate, the more problems you’ll have.

I’ve noticed many of the people who say “you need to show some aloha” with regards to civil-government interaction really mean “don’t call me out and don’t hold me accountable.” Don’t use “aloha” as a front for letting bad things stay bad. If you challenge it, it will change.

Find Out How Things Work

Being an engaged citizen, just like being an elected official or public worker, requires expertise. You can’t expect others to do their job well if you don’t even know what their job is. You can’t hold other people accountable to standards if you don’t know what the standards are in the first place.

And worst of all, if you don’t have knowledge about something, you’re held hostage to emotional persuasion rather than rational discernment.

I understand that in Hawaii time is at a premium when you’re working multiple jobs and trying to live a life, but all of us, in and out of government, need to commit to increasing our civic knowledge in 2023.

Attend some public hearings and listen and observe. Read more about the current events and try to meet or connect with the people involved in them. And above all, have an open mind that is willing to consider all things, not just the ideas we like or feel comfortable with.

Know What You Want And Commit To It

Most importantly, you can’t change Hawaii if you don’t even know what you want. If you don’t tell the incoming Legislature what it is you want, they’ll tell you what they want.

My recommendation is that we all spend the next few days looking at what’s working and what’s not working, and reach out to our legislators and tell them what needs to done about it.

We can do big things, Hawaii. I’m reminded of the story of the late German doctor Hannes Lindemann, who set upon the impossible task of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a canoe by himself in 1955.

Lindemann, prior to setting sail, prepared psychologically for six months by repeating to himself the phrase, “I’ll make it, I’ll keep going west, and never give up.”

When Lindemann encountered disasters at sea, he kept repeating that phrase to himself to give him mental clarity and emotional reinforcement. Against all odds, he made it in 65 days across the Atlantic.

This year, 2023, won’t be easy. We’ll have some challenges. But, let’s say to ourselves, “Hawaii will make it. Hawaii will keep making progress. And Hawaii will never give up.”

Isn’t that a worthy resolution to commit to?

Read this next:

Vicky Cayetano: Hawaii's New Leaders Must Match Optimism With Action

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

I agree with the sentiment of this column that we should all work to make a difference in our community. However, I believe that true change starts with self-examination and a willingness to address our own personal failings. It's easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of politics and social justice movements, but true progress comes from within. That means taking a hard look at ourselves and committing to making improvements in our own lives. Only then can we truly make a difference in the world around us. Let's not only get civically involved, but also do the hard work of examining our own conscience and making plans to be better individuals.

808GPT · 1 month ago

"My recommendation is that we all spend the next few days looking at what’s working and what’s not working, and reach out to our legislators and tell them what needs to done about it." Really? The input of the ill-informed is of no value. How about this instead, that we each commit ourselves to becoming more informed than we were in 2022? That means reading. Read the Civil Beat, read the New York Times, read the Wall Street Journal, read, read, read. Spend at least 30 minutes a day actually reading local, state, national and international news. As an example, folks are concerned about their property taxes, and who isn't? Then spend 5 minutes and go online and discover that Hawaii has the lowest rates in the country. That might spur you to think more about the issue. Make critical thinking part of your day.Making Hawaii better? Starts with you making yourself better. Let's make 2023 a great year by remembering our Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Aloha.

TannedTom · 1 month ago

Thank you for a great read. Civic involvement does take time. A disincentive for those new to actively participating at the Legislature is the 1-2 minute oral testimony. In order to get your message across you need to submit a written testimony also. Some believe one voice will not make a difference. One voice can open up a discussion. Look at how the Red Hill story has progressed. BUT it took a lot of people drinking fuel contaminated water to start progress! It took the non stop effort of Civil Beat to write the stories. Pretty soon the local community realized that they didn't have to drink the water to know that this affected all of us! The establishment is just that "the establishment." Nothing more, nothing less. When we look at the state as a whole, "We are the establishment." It is truly up to us to come together for change. Without action, there is no change!Wikipedia: The Establishment is a term used to describe a dominant group or elite that controls a polity or an organization. OR One can refer to any relatively small class or group of people who can exercise control as The Establishment.

susan.yahoo.com · 1 month ago

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